Parents Rescued by Navy Warship Plan to File Lawsuit

Couple criticized for bringing tots on 3,000-mile voyage.

ByABC News
July 10, 2014, 9:47 AM

— -- The parents who were stranded at sea with their two young daughters and had to be rescued by a U.S. Navy warship say they plan to sue their satellite phone carrier and hope any monetary winnings will allow them to help repay the government's cost of their rescue.

“To see people show up to help you like that is pretty amazing,” Eric Kaufman told ABC News, referring to the team from California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing that parachuted out of a plane into the frigid waters off the coast of Mexico to save his family.

Kaufman and his wife, Charlotte, and their two daughters - ages 1 and 3 at the time - were some 900 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico aboard their 36-foot sailboat named the Rebel Heart last April when their daughter Lyra, 1, became sick with a fever and a rash.

“That’s when we knew we were in a bad spot,” said Eric Kaufman, who, with his wife, had spent years planning the 3,000-mile trip from Mexico to New Zealand.

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The Kaufmans allege their satellite phone carrier cut off their only connection to land while they were stranded. They used the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on their boat to call for help.

“We activated it and we sat there,” Kaufman said.

It took members of the 129th Rescue Wing three days to reach the family.

It was only once the Navy ship, with the Kaufmans aboard, returned to the family's hometown of San Diego that the couple discovered they were the subjects of an intense national debate over whether they, as parents, should have been sailing with their daughters.

"Why wouldn't you?," Eric replied when asked why they brought their daughters with them.

“We’re both experienced sailors,” said Charlotte, who described the planned 3,000-mile journey as not a trip but the family's way of living. “We’ve raised our daughters on a sailboat.”

“We were very prepared,” she said. “We knew what we were doing.”

The family's boat was purposely sunk after it was damaged in the journey. The Kaufmans say they hope to buy a new boat, possibly also with any money from the planned lawsuit, and return to the sea.

"I can't wait to get back," said Charlotte. "It's an amazing lifestyle."